The Dark Underbelly

Rest area for the homeless Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2) at the corner of NW 4th Avenue and West Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon.

☆ ☆ ☆

“Do you have a dollar?”

I was walking into the 7-11 when the young man sitting on the trash can by the door called out to me.


“Do you have a dollar?”

“What for?”

“I want to buy a beer.”

I hesitated.

“At least I’m honest,” he said with a too-wide smile.

“What kind do you want?”

“Four Loko. You rock!”

I walked into the store and headed for the beer section. I’d heard about this Four Loko thing in the American media. There was some controversy a few years back due to the drink being marketed to teenagers. My gut reacted to the vague memory of the story by instantly labelling the product “bad.” I mulled this over as I perused the Four Loko flavors. Lemonade seemed like the most neutral choice. I made my purchases and left the store.

The young man quietly thanked me as I handed him the beverage. Then he moved off into the shadows to drink it in peace.

I tried to imagine what was going on in his head and his heart, what he was going through. If I were in his situation, I’d probably want a beer, too. Of course, all I know about his situation is that he was sitting on a trash can outside a Los Angeles 7-11 in the middle of the night. But I’m fairly confident I can extrapolate a general idea of the rest.

I’m assuming this young man was homeless. He wasn’t the first homeless person I talked to during my stay in the U.S.  There was the kind man in the wheelchair searching for food in the trash can outside Amoeba Music in Hollywood, the man camped at the bus stop in Santa Cruz who told us he was “wishin’ he was fishin’,” the young woman with sores on her face in Portland who almost cried as she asked me for a dollar, the guy hanging out in front of The Groundlings theater on Melrose Avenue who told me he had left Chicago to escape the mafia (a captivating story whose veracity I immediately doubted). Coming from Germany, where I’ve lived for the past few years, I am no longer used to seeing so many homeless people. People of all colors, all ages. My first few hours in the U.S. were shocking. I don’t remember there being this many homeless people a few years ago. Maybe I had just learned to ignore them, like everyone else does. At some point, it’s hard to go about your day in the city without blocking them out. Otherwise your heart feels like it might break.

Because Neptune represents the hidden, I decided to look at its recent transits to the U.S. chart to learn more. Neptune also represents illusion. Homelessness is by its very nature not hidden, but the public discourse around it often serves to create the illusion that it does not exist, isn’t serious, or couldn’t happen to you. In Santa Cruz a friend told me there were 5,000 homeless people there, a significant number considering Santa Cruz only has 59,000+ residents. This latter figure is according to the 2010 U.S. Census, which, being delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, only counts people with homes. The homeless population goes uncounted.

Transiting Neptune (Neptune moving through the sky) conjuncted the Moon (the public) in the U.S. Sibley Chart (a kind of birth chart for the nation) three times between March 2010 and January 2011. I looked for relevant occurrences on the exact dates, although the archetypal significance of the conjunctions is in play throughout the period in question, as well as for some time before and after:

1. March 14, 2010: Transiting Neptune conjuncted (came to the same location as) the U.S. Moon. That night, this SouthPark episode aired: Night of the Living Homeless.

2. August 25, 2010: Transiting Neptune conjuncted the U.S. Moon for the second time. The Denver (Colorado) Homeless Ministry sponsored a concert featuring homeless musicians and posted this article about it on that day.

3. January 14, 2011: Transiting Neptune conjuncted the U.S. Moon for the third and final time. Two days before, Nan Roman and Senator Jack Reed spoke at the National Press Club about the state of homelessness in the U.S.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 39% of the total homeless population are children under the age of 18 and 23% are families with children, often women fleeing domestic violence. These are the homeless that often remain hidden from public view.

As Neptune has now moved into compassionate Pisces, now is a good time to ask how we can help:

100,000 Homes

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National Alliance to End Homelessness

2 thoughts on “The Dark Underbelly

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